Adriane Brown SM ’91 was eight years old in 1966, when she and her brother integrated a previously all-white school in Virginia. By sixth grade, she was class president. She’s been a leader ever since, in the corporate world and, most recently, in developing an intellectual property marketplace. This year, MIT recognized her professional and community contributions with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award.
Brown earned a bachelor of science in environmental health at Old Dominion University in 1980 and then went to work for Corning in New York state, earning her MIT degree while working her way up from shift supervisor to vice president and general manager of the environmental products division. In 1999 she took a job at Honeywell Aerospace in Indiana. She was promoted to run the engine systems division in Arizona, and she ultimately became president and CEO of Honeywell’s $5 billion Transportation Systems Group.
In 2010, she became president and COO of the patent licensing company Intellectual Ventures, which has a portfolio of 40,000 active patents and a global network of 4,000 inventors.
“We just launched our fourth spinout company,” Brown says. This firm uses metamaterials (engineered materials that behave differently from matter found in nature) to create products such as satellite antennas that use holography. “The best part of my job is that I get to be involved in such a broad variety of things that drive the innovation ecosystem,” she says. The company’s Global Good program is developing a cooling system that can be used underneath the protective—but very hot—gear worn by health workers battling Ebola.
Throughout her career, Brown has served as a mentor and inspiration to girls and young women, encouraging them to pursue science, technology, and engineering. In 2014 she was honored as a Woman of Achievement by Legal Momentum, a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to the rights of women and girls.
“I didn’t know people like me when I was growing up,” she says. “Seeing someone who broadens and changes the image of who you might think you can become—that’s a powerful thing for girls.”
Brown and her husband of 20 years live in the Bellevue, Washington, area; she has an adult stepson and a teenage daughter. She returns often to MIT to speak to Sloan Fellows and spoke to Sloan students at the Dean’s Innovative Leader Series last November.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.